(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
Mid-summer at the rehab hospital, Beth gradually felt small sensations in her trunk and legs. The therapists called it a “return” that sometimes occurred after the shock of the initial trauma abated. She could feel a firm touch on the skin, but not hot or cold or any degree of temperature. Beth’s spinal cord had been cut at C6-7, but the new sensations proved that a tiny strand remained connected, defining her injury as incomplete. When we sat outside between therapy sessions, she could not feel the warmth of the sun on her legs.
“I have regained only partial feeling in my trunk and legs, but still no movement,” Beth said. “I can move one finger on my left hand and my handgrip is still weak.”
Zero finger control in intensive care changed to one digit, the left index, which could move a little. Limited to a range of three inches, the finger could not straighten or touch her palm. Even so, it was a gift, one that would make her left hand the favored one for everything except her right-handed habit of writing. I hoped for more returns which never happened.
Simple tasks remained complicated or unworkable. The inability to put her hair up in a ponytail bothered Beth. She couldn’t manipulate an elastic band, but there was a second big obstacle. If she raised her hands high as she sat in a chair, she tipped forward to the floor.
Beth depended on the wheelchair armrests to balance. Laraine taught her how to push down with her palms on the locked big wheels to shift and move her bottom, little by little, to the front edge of the chair seat. Then, Beth leaned against the backrest for stability to prevent a tumble to the floor when she lifted her hands behind her head. Before she handed me the elastic band, she tried to put her hair up on her own, again and again, until her arms trembled.
“Early on,” Beth said, “I decided that I was going to become completely independent no matter how long it took.”
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